Interview with Felix Bodensteiner: TableLabs owner agrees that niche selection is crucial
Working on interviews such as this one and reading it a few times, I get to learn and see insights I would normally miss when I read the article once. Felix Bodensteiner, a product manager at IBM and owner of TableLabs approves that niche selection is crucial. When starting a new product, choose your market carefully. Another insight he is keen on is the focus on quality over quantity. This reminds me of some advice an investor gave me. Double down on what works!
Goran Duskic: Hello Felix, can you quickly introduce yourself to our readers? What skills, experiences, and connections (mentors, investors, books) helped you become the internet entrepreneur you are today?
Felix Bodensteiner: Sure – when I was barely a teenager, my mom forbade me to play a popular browser game. I put the account on eBay, and it sold for like $250. That was an absurd amount of money and more than my yearly allowance. Fast forward almost 20 years, I still find an almost unhealthy amount of joy in finding the gold nuggets of the modern age. I have a day job as a product manager, building AI SaaS products, and am always looking for like-minded entrepreneurs with whom I can leverage my skill set to help move the needle.
Goran Duskic: Speaking of SaaS products, which is a common topic here. You are the chief executive of Table Labs. Can you share how that came to be? If I remember correctly, you purchased the website / service / company from Spencer Haws? Can you share any details about that deal?
Felix Bodensteiner: Absolutely – together with one of my best friends, who is a developer, we were looking at doing a project together. We stumbled on TableLabs pretty randomly. When we were still in school, my friend followed Spencer’s insights and built a niche affiliate page for bread baking equipment. He was still subscribed to Niche Pursuits, where in one newsletter, Spencer listed the project he wanted to focus on. TableLabs was not one of them, so we reached out to ask if it was for sale & a few weeks later, we were the proud owners of TableLabs.
Goran Duskic: What’s so amazing about comparison charts and tables?
Felix Bodensteiner: We were looking for a Software as a Service product that demonstrated somewhat of a product market fit. We recognized that most TableLabs customers have most of their affiliate links in product comparison charts. This makes it such a critical piece to how much income our customers can generate that we felt it’s an extremely sticky product and a great platform to expand services. And honestly – I personally love these comparison tables, especially with non-branded, special purpose products like mouse traps or lawn mowers, where I would be otherwise lost to even know where to start.
Goran Duskic: How many tables are you hosting now? The last time we spoke, you were at +40000.
Felix Bodensteiner: There are still tables created literally every single day, but we are not seeing the same growth rates that the business had a few years ago – we only see spikes when new customers sign up, as most create 10 or even 100 tables in their first week. Since my partner exited, we have reduced our marketing efforts, and we could do much better on the customer acquisition front. Still, the number remains high as no one really deletes tables.
Goran Duskic: From a user’s perspective, this makes sense. When I became a user of TableLabs, I created a few tables. Once this was up and running, I never deleted them. TableLabs solves a real problem. Do you think users would benefit more if they kept adding more tables and updating them? What advice would you give to website owners making money through affiliate marketing?
Felix Bodensteiner: That is a good question –
What we see in the data is that some users are much better at getting a consistently high conversion rate on their tables than others. Quality over quantity, if you will. My advice would be to track diligently what works & what does not, ideally at each stage of the funnel.
For instance, you could see low clicks due to an uncompelling product pitch, but the low conversion of clicks would indicate an inaccurate product pitch. We are trying to do this within TableLabs, which for each chart shows you views and clicks. You could add your earnings per click as well. This is a good start to identifying your strengths. Once you find your secret sauce, adding more tables will yield much greater benefits.
Working at IBM and consulting startups during off-hours
Goran Duskic: Are you working on any other projects?
Felix Bodensteiner: I do – I do startup consulting with occasional angel investment. Those engagements tend to be shorter, usually, less than 6 months, supporting founders on the steps from building out an idea to something testable like a Minimum Viable Product to reach Product-Market fit. Most people find me through LinkedIn, and I recently started to publish (my) insights about Product Management on Medium.
Goran Duskic: Very interesting. Maybe you can help me confirm or disprove (refute) a hypothesis. To achieve Product-Market fit, the most important thing to do well is niche selection. Would you say that’s an accurate assumption, or are there other more important decisions the founder has to make before building a product?
For example, if your niche was unemployed college students or bookstores in 2000 when Amazon was going gangbusters, what chance do you have of success?
Felix Bodensteiner: I am a big believer that traction is shown best when a product wins a market, even if it’s ridiculously small. Let’s say your niche is unemployed college students, and you provide a service or content on how to find a job. If you can show that in one college, the majority of students leveraged your offering and were successful – that’s when you know you have a real problem solver and likely a great product. You can always scale via coupon codes, google ads, etc. Knowing exactly how to win in a niche will make the economics work. So yes, I would agree that choosing the right niche is existential.
Goran Duskic: You seem like a pretty busy individual with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit. How do you find the time and energy to work at IBM, consult startups and run a successful side business such as TableLabs?
Felix Bodensteiner: I do like to stay busy, which is a mental advantage because it makes a lot of things seem interesting rather than a chore. To be fair, it’s not an ideal situation, and I missed the boat on a number of items because I was spread too thin or prioritized other items. My wife would say that I say ‘yes’ maybe a bit too often. To be honest, I could not do all of it by myself, it’s all about having the right team in place. People that share your ambition and can execute mostly autonomously. Quality over quantity. I am hoping to build up a larger team over the next few years so that I can say ‘yes’ to new items more frequently.